Beyond Public Austerity

Ross Douthat:

...too many conservatives have convinced themselves that “re-commit to limited government” is the only political lesson the post-Bush Republican Party needs to learn. It’s true that the G.O.P.’s modest resurgence has been fueled by voter backlash against the various expansions of government being passed and contemplated by the Obama administration. But despite what many on the right believe, Republicans didn’t lose in 2006 and 2008 because they were insufficiently committed to spending discipline. They lost because of the Iraq War and to some extent Hurricane Katrina, obviously but also because the Bush boom (such as it was) badly failed to deliver the goods for the middle and working classes. These voters were coping with stagnating wages and climbing health care costs well before the financial crisis exposed all their real estate “wealth” as a mirage, and it was their anxieties  and the sense that the G.O.P. didn’t have anything to offer them  that helped push public opinion steadily leftward well before Barack Obama appeared on the political scene.

I take Ross's point. But throwing fiscal discipline to the winds was both awful for the core integrity of the conservative brand and also related to the great middle class stagnation. Lowering taxes and increasing spending by borrowing helped prop up the illusion of prosperity when the wheels were coming off; it was a reckless, unfunded bribe, like the Medicare entitlement. Instead of tackling the problem, the right provided palliative care - at the expense of the next generation.